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Report to the U.S. Congress on the Outcomes of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program SAFETEA-LU Section 1807

5. Other Benefits

Introduction

This chapter discusses and summarizes other important benefits of the NTPP, in addition to those considered in earlier chapters. These benefits respond to directions in the legislation for NTPP to assess how changes in nonmotorized usage affect energy usage, health, and the environment,[25] and other priorities the WG set for the program. This chapter is divided into sections that consider benefits related to:

Each section describes the focus the WG has taken for benefits related to these complex goals; includes analysis of quantitative impacts; and highlights examples of pilot projects developed to accomplish these goals. The quantitative analysis is within the limits of the available evaluation methods and data, and is largely based on the community-wide results, including averted VMT, as presented in section 4.2.

Public Health and Safety Benefits

Physical Activity and Health

The WG chose to focus on increased levels of physical activity from walking and bicycling and crash rates for pedestrians and bicyclists under the broad topic of health benefits. This is in addition to the important health benefits associated with reductions in toxic air emissions discussed above.

The 2011 National Prevention Strategy, authored by the U.S. Surgeon General in partnership with 17 agencies including DOT, identifies the creation of safe and healthy communities as a key strategy to improving the Nation's health. The construction of networks of pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure, such as those constructed through the NTPP, is identified as an evidence-based means to accomplish these prevention goals. Furthermore, the Community Guide to Preventive Health Services, which is sponsored by the CDC to comprehensively review relevant research and produce scientifically sound recommendations, recommends the construction of pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure as a way to increase physical activity.

Regular physical activity improves health. Lack of physical activity is the Nation's third leading risk factor for death, behind tobacco, and alcohol.[26] The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults achieve at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or bicycling, in addition to strength training.[27] Periods of cardiovascular activity can be as short as 10 minutes to provide benefit. Data collected through the NTPP (Table 13 in section 4.2) suggest that walking and bicycling trips are sufficient in length to create health benefits; moreover, in at least three of the pilot communities, nonmotorized trips cover more distance than the national average, suggesting an even greater benefit. According to public health researchers,[28] regular physical activity such as that achieved through walking and bicycling trips facilitated by NTPP investments:

The physical activity benefits of the investments made through this program will continue to provide dividends long into the future, as the new facilities become further established as part of transportation networks.

Physical Activity Goals

The NTPP model provides rough estimates of increases in physical activity in the pilot communities from the 2005 base year. The estimates are derived from the total reduced VMT replaced by walking and bicycling, as presented in section 4.2, as assumptions on average nonmotorized trip distances and times. Based on this calculation, the average person living in the NTPP communities walked 6 minutes and bicycled 1.25 minutes more per week in 2010 than in 2007. These additional minutes are helping people reach the CDC's recommendation that people undertake moderate-intensity aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week.[29] It would require additional future data collection and analysis to move beyond the limits of these broad averages to identify a distribution of activity levels among individuals necessary to more accurately measure health benefits from the net increases in community and program levels of activity.

Economic Cost of Mortality

Working with the CDC, the NTPP applied the World Health Organization's Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for Cycling to estimate the economic savings resulting from reduced mortality from increased bicycling in the pilot communities in 2010.[30] To run this calculation, the CDC entered the total number of new bicycling trips that were made in 2010 (as shown in Table 13), which are in addition to the expected number of bicycling trips that would have been made in 2010 given 2007 bicycling rates. Applying this model, the added nonmotorized trips in the pilot communities taken in 2010 reduce the economic cost of mortality by $6.9 million. These results are for a single year of increased bicycling only; results for the duration of the infrastructure's life span will likely greatly increase this amount.

This estimate is likely conservative because it is based only on benefits of reduced mortality (death) and not of reduced morbidity (illness) and only calculates reduced mortality due to increased physical activity (and does not consider safety or the health benefits of improved air quality), and only includes bicycling for utilitarian purposes. As discussed in the safety section below, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities have not increased despite growth in rates of walking and bicycling in the pilot communities; consequently, health benefits would not have to be adjusted down.

The estimated economic savings from reduced morbidity would likely greatly surpass the economic savings of reduced mortality.[31] Furthermore, the HEAT uses conservative inputs; the actual savings are likely higher than the estimate above. The HEAT model to estimate the benefits of increased walking has not yet been calibrated with U.S. values; in the future, it will likely provide estimates of significant additional economic savings from reduced mortality.

This discussion and the estimates of health benefits are provided to demonstrate an important future area of analysis for the pilots as they complete their networks and for communities interested in estimating or measuring the impacts of nonmotorized investments. This analysis will be increasingly possible as models and tools such as HEAT are further refined and as data collection for walking and bicycling trips becomes more common.

Safety

No Increase in Fatal Crashes While each pilot community experienced increases in bicycling and walking from 2005 to 2009, fatal bicycle and pedestrian crashes held steady or decreased in all of the communities, according to available data.

The NTPP focused on improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, in addition to the goal of increasing the rates of walking and bicycling in the four pilot communities. Each community has invested NTPP funds in nonmotorized infrastructure and programming that improves safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Virtually all of the infrastructure projects improve safety directly or indirectly, and each community instituted programs aimed specifically at educating the public about walking and bicycling safety. Comprehensive and conclusive safety data for each of the communities is not yet available, but preliminary results suggest that bicycle and pedestrian safety has remained the same, despite increases in bicycling and walking rates in each pilot community.

Safety Data

Table 3 indicates that fatal bicycle and pedestrian crashes have remained relatively steady from 2005 to 2009. This is notable because during this time period, each pilot community experienced increases in bicycling and walking (see section 4.2). Therefore, it is possible that later data will continue to indicate that injury and fatality rates (fatalities per 1,000 pedestrians, for example) will have decreased. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiles annual statistics on fatal crashes in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia. Table 22 shows fatal bicycle crashes by year, and Table 4 shows fatal pedestrian crashes in each of the counties where pilot communities are located. There is research literature that documents this trend in other cities.[32] Conclusions from FARS are limited because numbers are so small, providing the potential for major percentage changes based on a very limited number of events. Analysis of safety trends in the pilots is limited by the lack of consistent and detailed injury data for the four study areas.

Table 22: Fatal Bicycle Crashes by County, 2005-2009

County 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Sheboygan County, WI          
Total roadway fatalities 11 9 13 11 13
Pedestrian fatalities 1 0 1 2 1
Bicyclist fatalities 0 0 0 0 0
Columbia, MO          
Total roadway fatalities 9 15 8 8 10
Pedestrian fatalities 1 2 0 0 1
Bicyclist fatalities 0 0 1 0 0
Minneapolis, MN          
Total roadway fatalities 20 15 26 23 17
Pedestrian fatalities 6 1 4 2 6
Bicyclist fatalities 0 1 2 2 1
Marin County, CA          
Total roadway fatalities 11 9 12 7 10
Pedestrian fatalities 3 2 3 2 1
Bicyclist fatalities 0 0 0 0 0

Source: NHTSA, FARS

These data have a couple limitations. First, fatalities do not tell a complete story about safety; such data excludes injuries and perceived safety, which may be better indicators of overall community-wide safety. Also, while the years of the FARS data coincide with the timeline of the NTPP up to 2009, a great many of the projects were not completed at the time of the most recent data collection, and other completed projects were not open for use long enough to be fairly assessed for their impacts.

Despite these limitations, FARS data are the only safety data that are consistent across all four pilot communities, which makes it an effective way to measure changes in safety over time. Community-level data on crash-related injuries are inconsistent among the four pilot communities and therefore were not used for this report. Future analysis of FARS data could provide a better perspective of the effects of NTPP investments on safety after all projects are built-out and established as part of community networks.

The investments that the pilot communities have made in infrastructure and programming will encourage residents to bicycle and walk while promoting safety among all road and path users. Given the currently available data and their limitations, no changes in safety can be derived. However, as the communities continue to build their bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and implement their programming, they may see additional roadway safety improvements. Further analysis could provide a better understanding of the impacts of NTPP investments on safety in each community as data become available.

NTPP Project Examples

The pilot communities assumed that all projects, whether for infrastructure or education, produce physical activity benefits to the extent that they encourage more walking and bicycling. Examples of infrastructure and outreach projects that explicitly focus on safety include:

The pilot communities also used NTPP funds for programs that educate adults, children, and law enforcement officials about walking and bicycling safety. Examples include:

Environment and Energy

Environment and Energy Savings

  • The pilot communities saved an estimated 22 pounds of CO2 in 2010 per person or a total of 7,701 tons.
  • This is equivalent to saving over one gallon of gas per person or nearly 1.7 million gallons over the duration of the program.

To consider impacts on the environment, the WG focused on emissions of criteria pollutants identified under the Federal Clean Air Act Amendments[33] and carbon dioxide (CO2), the major transportation-related greenhouse gas and an important contributor to global climate change. To consider the impacts of program investments on energy use, the WG focused on energy savings from shifts from driving to walking and bicycling.

According to FHWA's NHTS, most walking and bicycling trips are short: 40 percent are within 2 miles of home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes 5 miles or less.[34] Most air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide (CO), which are regulated under the Clean Air Act, are emitted within a few minutes of starting a vehicle because of engine characteristics, making these trips more polluting per mile from the perspective of respiratory health.

Each gallon of gas burned produces 19.4 pounds of CO2, nearly a pound per mile driven on average.[35] Automobiles, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, are responsible for about 20 percent of the CO2 emissions in the U.S.[36]

The WG estimated changes in air quality over the period of the program using a table of conversions (Appendix 4). Table 23 shows the impact of the NTPP on these pollutants in 2010 and between 2007 and 2010. The input for these conversions is the averted VMT figures presented in section 4.2. With a combined population of 702,986 people over the age of 16 in the pilot communities in 2010, the NTPP estimates that almost 22 pounds of CO2 were saved in 2010 per person (over the age of 16) or 7,701 tons collectively between the pilot communities.[37] This amount is equivalent to saving more than 1 gallon of gas for every person older than 16 in the pilot communities in 2010.

Table 23: Air Quality Benefits of the NTPP

Pollutant Reduction/Savings in Pounds
Per Day In 2010 2007-2010
Hydrocarbons 156 56,763 113,527
Particulate Matter (PM)10 0.59 217 434
PM2.5 0.56 205 409
Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) 109 39,651 79,302
Carbon Monoxide (CO) 1,418 517,548 1,035,097
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 42,195 15,401,235 30,802,470

Averted VMT can also be converted into energy savings, measured in gallons of gasoline or British Thermal Units (BTUs, the standard measure of energy) saved. For gasoline savings, it is assumed that the average passenger car fuel efficiency is 22.6 miles per gallon.[38] For BTUs, it is assumed that the average gallon of conventional gasoline contains 113,500 BTUs. Table 24 presents these conversions.

Table 24: Energy Savings of the NTPP

Pollutant Reduction/Savings
Per Person in 2010 Total in 2010 Total from 2007-2010
Gallons of Gasoline 1.19 837,696 1,675,392
British Thermal Units (BTUs) 135,249 95 billion 190 billion

NTPP Project Examples

The pilot communities assumed that all projects, whether for infrastructure or education, produce environmental and energy benefits to the extent that they encourage shifts from car travel to walking and bicycling. Some examples where these benefits were explicitly considered include:

Community Mobility and Access to Destinations

The WG identified improved access through providing additional transportation options as a goal for the four pilot communities. In particular, the pilots focused on improving nonmotorized connections to public transit and access for individuals with limited mobility options - children and older residents, low-income groups, and individuals with disabilities. The intent was to improve access to opportunities, whether for work, education, or recreation, and ultimately, to improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the communities.

NTPP Project Examples

Although all NTPP projects were intended to improve community access, examples of projects with this explicit focus include:

6. Insights and Lessons Learned

Through the course of the pilot program, FHWA and the communities have celebrated many successes, and also learned many lessons about nonmotorized transportation planning, implementation, and evaluation. There have also been many lessons about the program itself, and insights into how to design and administer such programs. Based on the discussions in the previous sections of this report, this chapter offers a selection of insights and lessons learned related to the following categories:

Pilot Program Design

  1. Program Status Elevates Agency Commitment: Each community's selection as a pilot site raised the local profile of nonmotorized transportation and brings additional organizational attention. In addition to local agencies, State departments of transportation and the FHWA Division offices have embraced the importance of the program and are committed to problem-solving and innovation.
  2. Funding Flexibility Supports Innovations to Meet Local Needs: The flexibility of program funding allows the communities to tailor the program to meet their most important needs while capitalizing on unique opportunities to innovate. Each community is taking a different approach developing its own combination of planning, education, and facilities projects.
  3. Delivery of Small Projects Should be Streamlined: More flexibility is needed and the approval process should be streamlined in order to develop small nonmotorized projects efficiently. Complex Federal and State requirements can create a disincentive to move forward quickly with smaller projects, even though relatively small investments could otherwise be implemented quickly and have great impact.
  4. Short-Term Results Underestimate Benefits: The short timeline between the actual release of funds, project selection, design, and construction, and the deadline to complete the final report resulted in evaluation based on incomplete results for many projects. It takes time to identify, plan, engage the public, secure official support, implement projects, and collect data for program evaluation. Program results at this time reflect impacts of relatively newly opened infrastructure projects, as well as educational and outreach programs. At the time of data collection, not all projects had been built and placed in use; the communities still had unobligated funds. To better understand impacts of the full suite of pilot community projects and programs, evaluation could be phased, with opportunities to track results well after full build-out.
  5. Working Group Approach Adds Value: The NTPP Working Group has been a source of cohesive and collaborative program management, resulting in stronger pilot program outcomes for a national audience. The legislative emphasis on performance measures and reporting encouraged collaboration and productive exchange of ideas; the four pilots and FHWA have invested significant resources in developing a common measurement methodology that could benefit other communities across the country.

Program Planning and Implementation

  1. Comprehensive Bicycle/Pedestrian Plans and Street Design Policies Provide Advantages: Comprehensive bicycle/pedestrian plans establish the vision for nonmotorized transportation and assist with project selection based on an established project priority list developed with public involvement. Project implementation moved more slowly in the communities that did not have a comprehensive plan in place prior to the start of the NTPP, as they invested significant time and resources developing such a plan to help guide the program implementation. In addition to plans, comprehensive street design policies help to prioritize roadway investments and make most efficient use of resources.
  2. Leveraging Funds Expands Program Impact: The ability to leverage funds from other sources - both public and private - greatly expands the impact and reach of the Federal investment. Several innovative projects, including the Cal Park Tunnel Path in Marin County, California, and the Nice Ride Bicycle Sharing in the Minneapolis area, Minnosota, would not have been possible without strong partnerships and leveraged funds from multiple sources.
  3. Nonmotorized Programs Must Include Non-Infrastructure Investments: While NTPP focuses mainly on bicycle and pedestrian facilities, strong education, outreach, and marketing programs are needed to complement the capital facilities. All of the communities engaged in outreach and educational activities; particularly notable examples include road safety classes for adults and youth in many communities, as well as training for local law enforcement and engineers in Columbia, Missouri, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Building Capacity

  1. Projects and Outreach Efforts Must be Culturally and Generationally Appropriate: Engaging underserved communities and serving immigrant and low-income populations is critical to long-term success and support. There are numerous challenges in reaching these populations, and efforts must be culturally and generationally appropriate. Successful examples include the Minneapolis area Bike/Walk Ambassador Program, which provided safety, skills, and learn-to-bike programs in a variety of settings, for example, training to community health workers serving the Latino community in South Minneapolis.
  2. Education and Training for Engineers and Local Staff Provide Long-Term Benefit: Communities have invested significant resources for training and education to build local and institutional capacity among their engineers, planners, municipal staff, and community partners. This education has resulted in near- and long-term benefits, with engineers and planners also incorporating new knowledge into projects outside of the pilot program. In particular, efforts have focused on building capacity related to designing streets that better accommodate bicycling and walking as transportation.
  3. Exposure to Best Practices Leads to Breakthroughs: Exposing local engineers, planners, elected officials, and advocates to innovative practices and experiments demonstrates the potential of nonmotorized programs. These educational opportunities, and working with other leaders, helped to engage elected officials and engineers.
  4. Local Examples Help Build Public Support: Despite the great value of exposure to national and international best practices, having an identifiable local example is often the most effective way to gain community acceptance to implement a new type of design. Seeing an example in the local context helps residents to better understand the benefits and get ideas of how to address similar needs in their community. Planners and engineers must be strategic in selecting locations to pilot innovative designs and treatments, to find situations that may be more receptive to new designs and can also serve as a local model to continue moving the practice forward in each community.

Stakeholders and Partnerships

  1. Broad Public Education and Outreach Creates Better Understanding of Program Goals: Outreach efforts must be broad, and not limited to groups already known to support bicycling and walking. Reaching out to a wide range of local civic groups fosters community-wide support and a better understanding of program goals. Use of local advertising, including newspapers and radio, also brings the message to a wide range of people. In Columbia, MO, coordinated outreach, educational, and informational programs increased public awareness of bicycling and walking in general and of the pilot program. Attitude surveys conducted from 2008 to 2010 in Columbia found steady increases in awareness of the program and perceptions of the importance of walking and bicycling.
  2. NTPP Provides Opportunities to Build Relationships with Local Employers: Relationships with major local employers provide another avenue to support individual initiatives and projects, and also contribute to longer term behavior shifts. In addition, bicycling and walking infrastructure and programs can help attract new employers. For example, major employers in Sheboygan County have provided easements and engineering support for trail projects that extend the county-wide network and serve their campuses. Employers have also provided support and incentives for employees participating in Walk/Bike to Work Week.
  3. Early Support from Local Officials Benefits Projects through Entire Process: Strong support from elected officials as champions of the program has been critical to current and future successes. Local policies and commitment have helped to implement specific projects and institutionalize a long-term focus on nonmotorized transportation. For example, in Marin County, the Board of Supervisors has highlighted nonmotorized transportation as one of its key initiatives. This support has allowed the program to leverage additional funding sources to undertake more substantial and complex projects to accelerate build out of the nonmotorized network.
  4. New Inter-Agency and Intra-Agency Connections Highlight Common Goals: NTPP has established relationships between agencies with overlapping goals, some of which had no previous contact. This has been especially helpful in fostering ongoing partnerships linking transportation and public health, both at the local and Federal levels, to address common goals such as reducing single-occupant vehicle use.

Research and Evaluation

  1. Working Group Collaboration Leads to New Evaluation Approaches: The SAFETEA-LU legislation included goals that require data and performance measures but did not provide specific guidance on the evaluation approach; this was developed collaboratively by the pilot communities and WG partners. The FHWA as well as the pilots have committed significant resources to data collection and evaluation, both to support this program and to help advance the state of the practice nationally.
  2. Evaluation Highlights Importance of Both Community-Wide and Project-Level Approach: While the overall program contributes to community-wide transportation, environmental, and health benefits, some impacts may be too localized to be reflected at the community level, especially in the larger communities. Evaluating changes at the project level provides the opportunity to understand the impacts of specific projects and to begin to understand the transformational potential of nonmotorized projects and programs.
  3. Institutionalized Location Counts are Significant: All four communities committed to ongoing location-specific counts, which are used to track ongoing trends and measure the impacts of the investments. The counts, which will continue even after the program is officially complete, represent an ongoing legacy of data collection and evaluation. Ongoing data collection may include both manual and automated approaches, and is scalable depending on the size of the community and resources available. In order to compare across communities and years, counts should be consistent year to year, with thought given to geographic distribution within the community.
  4. Count Data Provide Basis to Measure Community-Wide Results: The NTPP model represents an innovative approach to estimating averted VMT and changes in walking and bicycling mode share, using location counts and data from the NHTS. This relatively inexpensive approach offers the opportunity to make reasonable estimates of changes on a community wide basis, assuming that the count data are of high quality. While using national survey data allows the model to make consistent assumptions across all four communities, future evaluation efforts would benefit from more localized household survey data. One goal for future evaluations may be to include travel diaries or questions about nonmotorized transportation behavior in routine regional household travel surveys.

7. Continuing the Progress

Moving into the future, the pilot communities will maximize the transportation benefits of the pilot investments. Activity continues to implement remaining infrastructure projects; execute awareness, outreach, education and enforcement work; and collect data to evaluate and learn from the program. Their data collection efforts will benefit the communities themselves and the wider field of transportation. The NTPP provides opportunities to refine transportation-related data collection and modeling methodology and to further develop methods that could be used more broadly across the Nation. The four communities represent a diverse cross-section of the country, with different populations, demographic profiles, urban settings, and needs for nonmotorized transportation. The results of this program provide insight into how to maximize the return on nonmotorized investments in a variety of contexts. As transportation agencies consider the importance of using performance measures to prioritize and track investments, the data and results from programs like NTPP will be even more important.

It is important to continue to build safe and convenient multimodal transportation networks. Safe and comprehensive networks provide more (and more affordable) options for transportation, housing, employment, and services, and can also be a more efficient and cost-effective way to provide government services. Increasing walking and bicycling also improves individual and community health. Continuing partnerships with organizations like the CDC and local health departments is important to continue the emphasis on the nexus between transportation choices, health, and the attendant costs and benefits to the individual and public at large. To accomplish these goals, communities will need a variety of methods and tools, including dedicated funding, leveraging and combining multiple funding sources to undertake large-scale projects, policy changes, improved data collection and performance measures, meaningful public engagement, and broad partnerships and coalitions. The NTPP communities engaged in all of these strategies, and the new partnerships formed were able to leverage the significant additional resources well beyond the scale of the original Federal investment.

The experience of the pilot communities demonstrates how Federal resources for nonmotorized transportation are used, and highlights the significance of what can be accomplished with a more concentrated focus. Access to such resources allows the opportunity to take a more strategic approach, stepping back to view community needs and allowing for a comprehensive set of investments, including infrastructure and non-infrastructure. The communities engaged in a wide range of innovative and important activities, including:

Programs like NTPP reflect the ability of nonmotorized investments to transform communities, improving quality of life, by expanding access to safe and healthy travel options.

Despite all the work accomplished and reported by the pilot communities to date, as the full program investment is realized, important aspects can be assessed in greater depth. These include the following considerations of concentrated, strategic, nonmotorized investments:

The findings from NTPP demonstrate the importance of nonmotorized transportation and how these transportation modes can enrich communities. In March 2010, the DOT released a Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations, which stressed the importance of building safe and convenient multimodal transportation systems. The findings from the NTPP affirm these words of the Policy Statement:

Increased commitment to and investment in bicycle facilities and walking networks can help meet goals for cleaner, healthier air; less congested roadways; and more livable, safe, cost-efficient communities. Walking and bicycling provide low-cost mobility options that place fewer demands on local roads and highways. DOT recognizes that safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities may look different depending on the context - appropriate facilities in a rural community may be different from a dense, urban area. However, regardless of regional, climate, and population density differences, it is important that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be integrated into transportation systems. While DOT leads the effort to provide safe and convenient accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, success will ultimately depend on transportation agencies across the country embracing and implementing this policy.

Updated: 02/10/2014
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